November is National Family Caregivers Month and it is the optimal time to talk about taking care of the Caregiver.
Prior to the pandemic, the estimated number of unpaid family caregivers was 54 million. Now, that number is closer to 60 million and growing. Sooner or later, we are all caregivers. If we are fortunate to have people in our lives that we care about, we will indeed find ourselves either willingly or begrudgingly, taking on the role of caregiver.
So, just who are the caregivers amongst us? I invite you to open your eyes and see the caregivers in your midst. Of course, there’s the obvious, parents caring for special needs children, adult children caring for aging parents, a spouse or partner caring for their mate.
The not so obvious was brought to my attention earlier this year. Those living with a disability have recently expanded my definition of caregiver to include a person caring for themselves, a self-caregiver. Too many people living with a disability don’t have the luxury of a caregiver and must take meticulous care of themselves each and every day, often times in isolation. Who do you know living with a disability that would benefit from a simple acknowledgement?
Another group of caregivers often overlooked are male caregivers. Did you know that 40% of all caregivers are male? The men, you least suspect are caring for their children, their spouse/partners, their parents and other family members. Many are unwilling to disclose their status as caregiver or simply don’t recognize that they are operating in that role.
Finally, we must acknowledge the many children, ages 10-18 who are occupying the ranks of caregiver, caring for parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives. They truly are the hidden helpers that we must all seek out and offer support to.
Selfcare, which is so often overlooked is the most critical component of the caring experience. Regardless of who you are caring for, the most important care you provide is the care for yourself so you are able and equipped to care for a loved one. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t take care of someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself”. Yet, too many caregivers do just that, care for others while neglecting themselves.
Since founding The Caregivers Guardian, (TCG) 12 years ago, taking care of the caregiver has been our mission. The driving force behind continuing this work is the stark reality that too many caregivers, who are unsupported, and unseen lose their lives during the caregiving journey.
Often the stress, isolation, neglect of personal medical care and an inability to access resources or accept help and needed support is the culprit. What can be done to shift this dangerous trend?
We must all pay attention to and acknowledge the caregivers in our midst. Recognize who they are and extend compassion and a helping hand. Throughout the month of November, TCG’s 101030 campaign, 10 random acts of kindness, 10K books to caregivers in 30 days, challenges everyone to conduct random acts of kindness to caregivers.
10 Random Acts of Kindness that will help facilitate the self-care that every caregiver needs.
- The simple act of picking up a phone and calling, not texting a caregiver to let them know you’re thinking of them and would like to support them in a meaningful way.
- Visit or call a caregiver just to see how “they” are doing.
- Be a sounding board – no advice or expertise needed, just a willingness to listen.
- Offer to prepare a meal for the caregiver at their home – not only do you provide needed sustenance but you bring light and energy into the home as well as needed company and fellowship.
- Send a card to a caregiver letting them know how much you admire them.
- Offer to provide respite (a break) for the caregiver – “I’ll come over for 3 hrs. on Saturday morning to stay with your loved one while you do whatever you want or need to do” i.e. – Be a kid, take a nap, spend time in the backyard, read a book, go to a movie, have lunch with a friend.
- Leave an easy to care for plant on the doorsteps (succulents are a great, low maintenance option).
- Offer to stay with the person in need of care while the caregiver gets their well care appointments
- Share caregiver resources with them like tcgcares.com.
- Offer to cover for the caregiver while they get their booster/vaccine at The Center for African American Health.
What we know about Random Acts of Kindness is they tend to bring as much joy to the giver as it does to the recipient. We further enhanced the campaign with Virtual Spa Facials, mugs and journals, inspirational books, and resources that we encourage all to take advantage of. Learn more at 101030campaign.com.
Nadine Roberts Cornish, CSA
Gerontologist, Speaker, Author
The Caregiver’s Guardian, Chief Care Strategist